Internships a win for immigrants, firms (On staffing)

An inside look at how Career Bridge, a non-profit program, kick starts the careers of foreign-trained professionals

Canadian businesses of every type and size are desperately looking for solutions to the unprecedented challenges they are facing in attracting and retaining skilled and experienced talent.

The harsh new labour market reality in Canada — and indeed around the world — is that there is a shrinking pool of qualified or experienced workers to fill jobs in almost every sector of the economy. Organizations are just beginning to engage in a “war for talent” that will intensify as the population continues to age and as the baby boomers begin retiring in huge numbers.

Significant skills shortages are already having a dramatic impact on many industries and the expectation is that Canada’s economy will face a shortfall of one million or more qualified workers in the next decade.

It’s not very inspiring news for anyone in the HR field, to be sure. But, as is often the case, serious challenges like this can also drive us toward creative new solutions that are resourceful, innovative and sustainable. Consider the example being set today by Career Bridge, a unique program that is expanding the pool of talent available to the rising number of Canadian companies caught in the current labour market squeeze.

At the same time Career Bridge is acting as a strategic staffing and talent management resource for companies in need, it is also helping to kick start the careers of immigrants arriving in Canada with so many of the skills and work experiences companies are desperately seeking.

Career Bridge — run by Career Edge Organization, a non-profit that has been providing career-launching paid internships across Canada since 1996 — is successfully placing both experienced professionals and recent graduates from other countries into skilled jobs at some of Canada’s top corporations.

Career Bridge, currently operating in cities across Ontario and in Vancouver, has placed more than 550 interns and signed on more than 130 participating organizations, including Bell Canada, Manulife Financial, CIBC, the City of Toronto, FedEx, General Motors of Canada, Hudson’s Bay Company, the City of Hamilton, Scotiabank, York University and the Humber Institute of Technology.

Antonietta DiSalvo, a staffing and development consultant in Mississauga, Ont., who acts as co-ordinator for the City of Mississauga’s activities with Career Bridge, says the municipality has employed five interns to date and she expects to continue the relationship.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback on all of our Career Bridge interns,” says DiSalvo. “Career Bridge is helping us to attract new talent and really great people who are motivated to do the work. It’s a win-win situation for the city and for the interns.”
More than 85 per cent of Career Bridge interns have been hired for full-time positions within their chosen careers. That means the program is creating new, and lasting, connections between the companies that need good people and the many experienced or qualified workers arriving here from other countries.

The equation for success is simple. Career Bridge allows employers to build their organizations by adding international skills to their workforce, while giving trained professionals Canadian work experience in their chosen careers.

All Career Bridge candidates are screened for business-level English language skills and their academic qualifications are verified for Canadian equivalency. Many candidates bring with them post-secondary education, including master’s degrees and PhDs, plus solid experience in business, engineering, health care and IT and a host of other disciplines.

Organizations tapping into this program are quickly discovering that it eliminates much of the risk usually associated with hiring foreign professionals for positions of responsibility. Employers can choose from paid internships ranging from four to 12 months, with no commitment to hire and without the worry of increasing their payroll, which is administered by Career Edge Organization.

In addition to helping individual immigrants and employers today, Career Bridge is also contributing to the bigger picture of Canada’s stature as a country in which immigrants can thrive professionally and socially.

“Potential employers at first did not want to take chance by hiring me but Career Bridge opened the door and provided me with the best opportunity to put my experience to work right away,” says former Career Bridge intern Paul Liu, a 34-year-old computer sciences graduate from China who now works full-time for the City of Mississauga following his one-year internship.

Career Bridge is without doubt creating a remarkable win-win solution for companies and people. Interns are gaining an exceptional opportunity to maximize their potential in jobs that make full use of their training and experience, while organizations discover a unique way to locate and hire solid talent with a minimum of risk, cost and time.

The war for talent is not about to disappear anytime soon. But Career Bridge is providing a crucial step toward success as companies look for new ways to deal with the dramatic changes that are rapidly emerging across our labour market landscape.

Pinoo Bindhani is director, market development at Career Edge Organization, a Toronto-based not-for-profit organization that helps employers tap into skilled graduates and internationally trained professionals. For more information, visit

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